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- 09/23/14--08:18: _14 Things You Only ...
- 09/24/14--01:45: _A New Book Challeng...
- 09/24/14--04:10: _Why Richard Branson...
- 09/25/14--02:50: _South Korea Thinks ...
- 09/25/14--04:16: _What It's Like To B...
- 09/26/14--04:40: _Study Finds That Up...
- 09/26/14--06:52: _Russian Female Cosm...
- 09/26/14--07:23: _I Was Attacked By A...
- 09/26/14--07:46: _A Las Vegas Hotel I...
- 09/26/14--07:52: _London's Nobu Resta...
- 09/26/14--08:38: _A Quiet Fashion Rev...
- 09/29/14--03:25: _The Protests In Hon...
- 09/29/14--04:45: _Meet Amelia: The Co...
- 09/29/14--04:49: _This Port Is The Gu...
- 09/29/14--09:26: _Here's How Hong Kon...
- 09/20/14--06:47: _Meet The PayPal Maf...
- 09/30/14--23:50: _US Launches Despera...
- 10/01/14--06:24: _British And America...
- 10/01/14--14:21: _Scientists Have Bee...
- 10/03/14--04:30: _US Crackdown On Tax...
- 09/23/14--08:18: 14 Things You Only Ever See Women Wearing At Fashion Week
- 09/24/14--01:45: A New Book Challenges Our Most Basic Assumptions About Evolution
- 09/24/14--04:10: Why Richard Branson Allows Employees To Take Unlimited Holiday Leave
- 09/25/14--04:16: What It's Like To Be Held In Egypts' Most Notorious Jail
- 09/26/14--04:40: Study Finds That Up To Half Of Antibiotics Fail Due To 'Superbugs'
- 09/26/14--07:23: I Was Attacked By A Giant Sea Lion In Antarctica
- 09/26/14--07:52: London's Nobu Restaurants Have Lost Their Michelin Stars
- 09/26/14--08:38: A Quiet Fashion Revolution Is Happening In North Korea
- 09/29/14--03:25: The Protests In Hong Kong Have Shut Down The City
- 09/29/14--04:45: Meet Amelia: The Computer That's After Your Job
- 09/20/14--06:47: Meet The PayPal Mafia, The Richest Group Of Men In Silicon Valley
Denim beyond distress
Jeans that show the wearer’s exhibitionist side are a must to stand out from the more, how shall we put it - 'refined' - looks doing the rounds.
If you see bags that are borderline offensive/ inappropriate/ too small to function or aimed at somebody under the age of 12 then you know you're at fashion week.
Phone case bags
The trend for loud and proud phone covers has extended to actual handbags for mobiles. So, as well as a mini cross-body bag, furry clutch and novelty animal number, show-goers have yet another thing dangling off them.
Eveningwear as day wear
Fashion show-goers can never be too overdressed, as these peacocks in Milan show.
The thigh's the limit
In the same vein as the above, these exhibitionists are all about thigh flashing. So much so, that you can even see the left lady's knickers!
Of course, of course – a hat is a way for one to project one’s personality, but try sitting behind those pom-poms at a catwalk show and see how it makes you feel.
Big knickers and sheer skirts aren't just for the red carpet you know! They're like, so versatile.
A theme... worn right from head to toe
Too much is erm, never too much when it comes to putting a look together. The phrase 'fashion victim' doesn't even seem to register here...
Normally the preserve of joggers or hot yoga enthusiasts, the concept of several days out of the office leaves some show-goers with a giddy penchant for the shortest of shorts.
Too many tassels
What rational woman could possibly put up with multiple tassells flapping about her person every time she moved? Exactly, but doesn't the camera capture them perfectly on the fashion week streets?
Fur-lined Birkenstocks, space age sandals; you would be hard pushed to find a fashionista that was shocked by the shoes outside the show venues.
...and shoe concepts that only ever looked good on the catwalk
Minuscule crop tops
Girl look at that body. I work out! As well as an international showcase for clothes, fashion week has become a scantily clad stomping ground for showing off one’s gym credentials.
While some strive hard to stand out, others revert to their 12-year-old selves who like to go matchy-matchy with their best gal pal.
The myth that man is not only unique but, by virtue of his sophisticated language, multifarious power and extraordinary intelligence, also supreme underpins all the others – the ones that fill our lives with religion, literature, romantic love and politics.
Sapiens, a new book by Yuval Noah Harari of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, sets out to challenge this central assumption and to question the human society it has helped served to create. From the first, the book positions human history where it belongs – as the latest phase in an epic process that has been, for the most part, defined by physics, chemistry and biology.
Contrary to those stirring museum displays and Fat Boy Slim videos, we are not the end result of a neat cycle of evolution from apes to apish dimwits to amazing us. For almost two million years we shared the planet with Neanderthals – aka Homo neanderthalensis – and other members of our Homo genus, including Homo erectus, Homo rudolfensis and the possible human sub species Denisova hominins, the bones of which were found in 2010.
Dr Harari carries out an interesting thought experiment: what if Neanderthals and other Homo species had survived alongside us?
“Would the American Declaration of Independence hold as a self-evident truth that all members of the genus Homo are created equal? Would Karl Marx have urged workers of all species to unite?”
More mundanely, imagine Sapiens hooligans meeting Neanderthals at a football match, or a boxing match, or if you accidentally kicked sand in the face of a fellow homo whose only notable weakness was that he doesn’t speak your very complex language. But don’t despair: between one and four per cent of your DNA is Neanderthal DNA, so you can at least have a go.
Sapiens, argues Harari, became an apex predator by sacrificing brawn to brain and using his bonce to outwit physically stronger human species as well as fast, ferocious carnivorous beasts. This led, around 70,000 years ago to what Harari calls a “Cognitive Revolution” – when we began to employ those same neurons to create boats, weapons, artwork and needles. Our rise, unlike that of, say, sharks, crocodiles or polar bears, took place within a mere blip in terms of prehistory and history.
“This spectacular leap from the middle to the top had enormous consequences… humans failed to adjust. Most top predators are majestic creatures. Millions of years of dominion have filled them with self-confidence. Sapiens by contrast is more like a banana republic dictator. Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous.”
When it comes to gender – a topic as muddy as the primeval swamp – Dr Harari applies the same sort of scrutiny. Pub psychologists and journalists love to recycle a small but very handy set of myths about how and why men have the best jobs, highest salaries, and fastest cars. These usually take the form of variations of these old faves: we hunted, while women gathered. Men’s brains follow their penises. We rose to power through brute strength and/or aggression. Men competed for partners in order to reproduce; the keener competitor won.
Harari gallops through these - the book is breezily populist – and finds plenty of holes in them all. Some of the science compels us to rethink such received ideas. For example, men often simply aren’t stronger, and women are often more resistant to hunger, fatigue and disease. Also, weedy politicians boss beefy cleaners and barmen around the House of Commons – physical strength is in fact very rarely related to social power.
Aggression, too, has a tenuous link with authority. Managing a war, for instance, requires great tact and guile, and the ability to manage and cooperate. “Women are often stereotyped as better manipulators and appeasers than men, and are famed for their superior ability to see things from the perspective of others,” says Dr Harari. This, he suggests, should make them natural leaders and bosses.
Not addressed in detail in Sapiens, but oft-stated, and politicised, in modern times, is the notion that men have dominated women because women have had to invest much time and effort in childcare, while they have been free to pursue and accumulate wealth and power.
“I don’t find this very convincing,” says Harari. “Though there is no doubt that women throughout history had to invest much more time and effort in childcare, in my mind it is not so obvious why this should have made them socially and politically weaker than men.
“Being the main caretaker means that you have more incentive to forge ties with other people, that you are more concerned to insure social harmony and adequate food-supply, and that you have more to lose from wars and plagues. Arguably, a mother of three should therefore be far more interested in politics than a carefree male bachelor.
“We are used to the separation of the political sphere from "domestic" issues, but this is a result of patriarchy. It is not a law of nature that such a separation must exist. In bonobo society, for example, bonobo females are also the main caretakers of children, yet precisely because of that, they are politically dominant.”
Straight attitudes to gay men are another puzzle, especially when it takes the form of homophobia.
“From an evolutionary perspective, straight men should have a great liking for gay men,” says Dr Harai. “If I am a straight man, and I discover that one of the other men in my group is gay, I should be very happy and give him all the encouragement he needs. Because if he has sex only with men, this means there is less competition for the women, and my genes are more likely to spread around. Why then are many straight men homophobic? From an evolutionary perspective, it is a mystery.”
Noah Yuval Harari freely, indeed happily, admits – in the book, and in conversation – that while he sees many flaws in the widely accepted assumptions and stereotypes, it’s not easy to offer final answers. He sees Sapiens as an almost childlike book of wonder, questioning the big shapes and patterns in life. “I didn’t aim to give a survey of facts and names and dates, but rather, to decipher the deeper mechanisms of history. To understand how our reality came to be the way it is.”
In doing so, he has knocked on the head a lot of our laziest ideas, and does a service to the causes of feminism in the process. Gender, he deeply believes, is solely a construct and our very notion of maleness not only can be, but will be, changed by new attitudes and new science, and very soon.
“Transsexuals are the vanguard of the future. But sex-change operations and Viagra are just appetizers. New technologies, particularly direct brain-computer interfaces that give you access to unlimited worlds of experience, might transform sex and gender roles into a product like any other. You can be a straight man for breakfast, a straight woman for lunch, and be gay in time for dinner. And at night you could be something new altogether, which today we cannot even imagine.”
Oh, and if you’re stuck for a hearty laugh-along sex and gender subject for tonight’s session with your more monkeyish mates, then consider this: somewhere along the line, we got those Neanderthal genes when your granddad (give or take a few thousand greats) slept with a short but very strong mono-browed Homo neanderthalenis woman who he probably couldn’t even talk to properly.
“It is shocking – or perhaps thrilling – to think that we Sapiens can have children together with animals from a different species,” says Dr Harari. “Follow-up studies are trying to find out who exactly had sex with whom. Did Sapiens girls have a liking to Neanderthal boys, or was it the other way around?”
Then again, after a few pints of saliva-fermented berry juice, who’s looking?
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari is published by Harvill Secker, £25
Sir Richard Branson is to remove limits on the amount of holiday Virgin employees can take each year in the hope it will boost morale, creativity, and productivity.
The Virgin boss believes that stripping away the company’s holiday policy and allowing staff members to take breaks when and as often as they wish will have long-term benefits for his business.
He was inspired after reading about a similar strategy introduced by the video-streaming giant Netflix, reported in 2010 by The Telegraph, which had been a marked success.
Staff at Virgin will now be allowed to take time off work without prior warning but are expected to manage this so they stay up to date with all their work.
Writing on his Virgin blog, Sir Richard said: “The policy-that-isn’t permits all salaried staff to take off whenever they want for as long as they want.
“There is no need to ask for prior approval, and neither the employees themselves nor their managers are asked or expected to keep track of their days away from the office.
“It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred percent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business — or, for that matter, their careers!”
The less rigid attitude to holidays has evolved because of the increasingly flexible working hours made possible by advances in technology.
Many managers can no longer accurately track how many hours their employees spend on their job because of the ease of remote working, and this undermines the old-fashioned system of tracking holiday time, Branson said.
He said the focus should be on how much people get done, rather than on how much time they spend on it.
“The Netflix initiative had been driven by a growing groundswell of employees asking about how their new technology-controlled time on the job (working at all kinds of hours at home and/or everywhere they receive a business text or email) could be reconciled with the company’s old-fashioned time-off policy,” he wrote.
“That is to say, if Netflix was no longer able to accurately track employees’ total time on the job, why should it apply a different and outmoded standard to their time away from it?
“The company agreed, and as its ‘Reference Guide on our Freedom and Responsibility Culture’ explains, ‘We should focus on what people get done, not on how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a 9-to-5 policy, we don’t need a vacation policy.’”
The entrepreneur, 64, said the change had been introduced at Virgin’s UK and US parent companies and would be extended to its subsidiaries if it appeared to be working well.
He said: “It is always interesting to note how often the adjectives ‘smart’ and ‘simple’ describe the cleverest of innovations — well, this is surely one of the simplest and smartest initiatives I have heard of in a long time, and I’m delighted to say that we have introduced this same (non) policy at our parent company in both the UK and the US, where vacation policies can be particularly draconian.
“Assuming it goes as well as expected, we will encourage all our subsidiaries to follow suit, which will be incredibly exciting to watch.”
The failure of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, to appear in public for nearly three weeks has triggered renewed speculation over his health and the stability of his regime.
South Korea and governments around the region will be watching carefully to see whether Mr Kim takes part in a specially convened session of the North's rubber-stamp parliament today - and, if he does attend, they will be scrutinising his gait for clues as to his health.
"There have been lots of reports that Kim is not in good health, supported by video footage of him walking with a noticeable limp at an event in July and again earlier this month," Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo's Waseda University and an authority on North Korean affairs, told The Telegraph.
"It was clear that he could not walk fast or in a straight line," he added.
Images released by North Korean state media have suggested that Mr Kim's weight has ballooned since he came to power after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in December 2011. That has been put down to the stress of his position combined with a love of fine food - including, according to some reports, a fondness for cheese that he developed while studying in Switzerland.
"Another reason why Kim may be reluctant to appear in public is the ongoing power struggle inside the North Korean military, which means that the situation in Pyongyang is still unstable," Professor Shigemura said. "Or, there is the possibility that there has been some sort of accident."
There were reports early last year that Mr Kim was the target of an assassination attempt by disgruntled army officers. In the following months, there were a number of purges of senior members of the regime as Mr Kim attempted to consolidate his grip on power.
Mr Kim has not been seen in public since attending a concert on September 3 with his wife, Ri Sol-ju. In previous months, state media have played to the young dictator's desire to be in the spotlight, reporting on "field guidance" trips to factories, farms and military units dozens of times every month.
Kim Jong-il's sudden death was put down to high blood pressure and diabetes, apparently linked to his appreciation of expensive French brandy and fine cuisine.
On the night Abdullah Elshamy was released from Egypt's most notorious jail, the young journalist bore little resemblance to the round-cheeked, smiling man whose image had adorned campaign posters.
Outside the Cairo police station, Mr Elshamy, 26, choked back tears as he shouted: “I have won. Everyone who is a journalist doing his work credibly has won.”
Now, after leaving Egypt to start a new life abroad, he is ready to tell his full story. Speaking to the Telegraph from Doha, where his employers, Al-Jazeera, are based, Elshamy spoke of his ten month-long nightmare inside Egypt’s Kafkaesque prison system – now, he wants to spend the rest of his life campaigning for press freedom.
“Prison changed my outlook on so many things” he says. “I want to tell people that freedom is not something that can be compromised – no society can truly be free without a free press.” Elshamy spent four months on hunger strike in prison to prove this message.
As an employee of the Al-Jazeera network, itself the subject of an aggressive crackdown by Egypt’s new leaders, Elshamy knows the dangers of a muzzled press more than most.
Just a week after his release, three colleagues at the network’s English-language channel were jailed for between seven and ten years for allegedly conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast false news from Egypt. Internationally, the prosecution has been interpreted as a calculated move against arch-rival Qatar.
Elshamy's own ordeal began on August 14 last year when he left the site of a pro-Morsi camp in Cairo, as it was savagely cleared by Egypt’s security services. Police had moved in on demonstrators inside the Rabaa el Adaweya camp early that morning, leaving hundreds dead and thousands injured.
When the clearance started, his greatest fear was that of arrest. “I knew detention would be very difficult,” he says. “To be detained in a time when the authorities will not tolerate a existence of different opinions … this is the hardest thing.”
Over 40,000 people are believed to have been arrested since the overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi in July of last year. Inside police stations and prisons, torture is rife once again, and the number of deaths in custody is slowly rising.
Throughout his ten-month imprisonment, Elshamy moved between three different jails – he ended it on hunger strike and in solitary confinement, inside a maximum security unit reserved for Egypt’s most dangerous criminals.
He was released on June 18 on medical grounds. According to doctors, Elshamy’s 147 day hunger strike had left him at risk of kidney and liver failure. In prison, he lost a third of his body weight.
"There were moments when I thought to myself, 'that’s it, I’m going to die now'," Elshamy remembers. “Sometimes I would lose consciousness for a few minutes, and then wake up to the realisation that no one had come to find me. I thought there would come a point where I fell down and didn’t wake up again.”
Three months after his release, Elshamy has yet to receive a full bill of health. Doctors say the long-term impact of his hunger strike may not become apparent for another four months.
“As a journalist, I knew I had done nothing wrong and yet I was not getting any visits from my lawyer, I could not even stand in front of a judge for my own interrogation. The hunger strike was my only way of finding my voice.” His protest made headlines around the world.
Prison guards taunted him throughout. At one point, he was photographed, looking dazed, with food in his hand. Elshamy says he has no memory of the incident, and believes he was drugged.
Faced with a seemingly interminable stretch of empty days, Elshamy took to documenting his time inside Egypt's prisons. He says he felt a responsibility to write down the stories of those he met.
By the year's end, he hopes to have finished a book on his experience. "I've got a lot to write about," he laughs.
He also has a lot to process. “I know the extent of my ordeal has yet to sink in,” he says. “Maybe there will come a day where I break down and cry, but for now, I try to give the impression that everything is fine.
“But I get these nightmares – so does my wife. She dreams that I am being taken away again.”
Elshamy’s 21 year old wife, Gehad, also spent the final 98 days of his detention on hunger strike. At one point, she was hospitalised.
Now Elshamy is free, he and Gehad are making plans to travel the world – in some of his darkest moments inside prison, the young man made lists of the places he wished they could one day see together.
He will also campaign for the freedom of his jailed Al Jazeera colleagues Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. He believes that the US and Europe can do more on this account, too. “Egyptian prosecutors told my lawyers that I was a real headache for them, once the public outcry started. Pressure works,” he says.
“We have to fight for freedom, no matter what the cost. In times of crisis, these principles can be tested, but they must remain unshakable.”
GPs are increasingly handing out antibiotics that turn out to be useless, as up to half of courses of the drugs 'fail' and result in further treatment, a study has found.
Groundbreaking research has analyzed 11m courses of antibiotics prescribed to British patients over the last 22 years covering the most common diseases areas including tonsilitis, pneumonia and ear infections.
Scientists said the findings were 'bleak' with one in six courses of antibiotics failing in 2012 but for some drugs this was more than one in two.
Experts and governments have warned that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to modern health care yet prescriptions of the drugs by family doctors continues to increase.
GPs have admitted prescribing antibiotics to 'get rid of' patients.
It comes after the Telegraph revealed that GPs in some areas of the country are prescribing twice as many antibiotics as in others, with rates lowest in London and highest in the north of the country.
Cardiff University researchers found that as GP prescriptions of antibiotics rose in recent years so did the proportion of the treatment courses that ended in failure.
This was defined as when patients needed another course of drugs within a month, were admitted to hospital with an infection within 30 days, had other complicating factors relating to infection or died from conditions relating to the infection.
They looked at common antibiotics prescribed for upper respiratory tract infections such as sinisitus and tonsilitis; lower respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia; skin and soft tissue infections, and middle-ear infection.
Between 1991 and 2012 overall antibiotic failures increased from 13.9 per cent to 15.4 per cent.
Failure rates for lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia were worse with more than one in three courses resulting in further complications or treatment.
One drug, trimethoprim, an antibiotic normally used in the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections such as tonsilitis and listed on the World Health Organisations's register of ‘essential medicines’, failed up to 70 per cent of the time when used to treat bronchitis or pneumonia. This compared with the more commonly prescribed amoxicillin which failed 18 per cent of the time for those diseases.
The researchers, writing in the British Medical Journal, warned that the failure rates might even be an underestimate because if antibiotics were prescribed spuriously for viral diseaes and no follow-up treatment required then it would not have registered as a 'failure'.
Professor Craig Currie from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, said: “There is a strong link between the rise in antibiotic treatment failure and an increase in prescriptions.
“Between 2000 and 2012, the proportion of infections being treated with antibiotics rose from 60 per cent to 65 per cent which is the period in which we see the biggest increase in antibiotic failure rates. These episodes of failure were most striking when the antibiotic selected was not considered first choice for the condition treated.
“Given the lack of new antibiotics being developed, the growing ineffectiveness of antibiotics delivered through primary care is very worrying indeed.
"There is a mistaken perception that antibiotic resistance is only a danger admitted to hospital patients, but recent antibiotic use in primary care is the single most important risk factor for an infection with a resistant organism. "Furthermore, what happens in primary care impacts on hospital care and vice versa.
“Antibiotic resistance in primary care needs to be more closely monitored, which is actually quite difficult given that primary care clinicians seldom report treatment failures. The association between antibiotic resistance and antibiotic treatment failure also needs to be further explored. From the general level of feverish debate, it’s not quite the "cliff" we would have imagined, but clearly this is worrying.”
David Cameron has set up an antibiotic resistance task force and has warned the issue threatens to send medicine 'back to the Dark Ages'.
Increasing numbers of infections are now resistant to all common antibiotics making them almost impossible to treat and few new drugs are in the pipeline.
Professor Currie added: “We need to ensure that patients receive the appropriate medication for their condition and minimize any unnecessary or inappropriate treatment which could be fuelling microbial resistance to antibiotics, prolonging illness and in some cases killing people.”
The research was only possible because the team had access to anonymous medical records of more than 14m people from more than 700 GP practices in the UK.
Dr Richard Stabler, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Bacteriology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “The overall picture presented is bleak but not unexpected, with rises in drug resistance rising in most categories.
"The increase in resistance is possibly lower than expected, certainly in comparison to hospital based studies, but without action and a continual increase in resistance, antimicrobial resistance is still a real threat.
“Treatable infections becoming untreatable is a real possibility with several important infections, for example Tuberculosis and gonorrhoea, having already been documented to be almost totally resistant to all known classes of antimicrobials in some cases.”
Prof Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at University of Edinburgh, said: "Though antimicrobial resistance is a huge concern both nationally and internationally there is a worrying paucity of hard data that could inform health policy.
"The study does suggest that large numbers of patients require further medical attention within 30 days of being prescribed an antibiotic. That’s obviously a worry. Moreover, the study shows that this fraction is rising, albeit slowly, over the past 20 years.
“This study confirms that that GPs are prescribing antibiotics as frequently if not more frequently than ever and that the problem of antimicrobial resistance continues to grow. The upshot is that we are increasingly reliant on a dwindling arsenal of drugs. That supports calls to develop new drugs but also, and probably even more importantly in the long term, to reduce usage and develop alternative therapies.”
Prof Mark Fielder, Professor in Medical Microbiology at Kingston University, said: “There is a continued need for education across the spectrum with both patients and medical professionals being aware of the importance of this issue.
"This is due to the fact that with good guidelines for treatment and rigorous adherence we can help maintain effective antimicrobial therapies for longer. So ensuring that an antimicrobial is required, clearly relaying that information to patients and then making sure the prescribing guidelines are followed, do this and it can help preserve drug efficacy for longer. The authors make the point that primary care physicians can play an important role in containing antibiotic treatment failures by careful management of patient expectation whilst also adhering to approved treatment guidelines.”
Public Health England is due to publish a report on variation in GP antibiotic prescribing nex month.
Dr Susan Hopkins, a healthcare epidemiologist at Public Health England said: “Public Health England have published national infection guidelines on which antibiotic is the most appropriate first-line treatment for a range of infections including those described in the BMJ paper.
"The rates of treatment failure for these recommended antibiotics are stable. What the paper shows is that where these guidelines are not followed treatment failures are increasing for both respiratory tract (e.g. bronchitis, pneumonia) and skin and soft tissue infections (e.g. cellulitis).
“Antibiotic resistance is an increasing problem, we strongly recommend that all clinicians follow the advice given in the PHE guidelines to limit the likelihood of treatment failure in their patients. Antibiotics are not recommended for coughs and colds.”
Yelena Serova will become Russia’s fourth woman in space this week when she heads to the international space station (ISS).
However, Russian reporters at the pre launch press conference seemed more interested in how she would maintain her hair and her relationship with her 11 year-old daughter while she was away on board the ISS.
At first, being a good sport, she went along with their questions - even jokily offering to show the press how she would wash her hair in space. However, once the reporters persisted along the same line of questioning Ms Serova, retorted: “Can I ask a question, too: aren't you interested in the hair styles of my colleagues?" she asked, flanked by the male astronauts who will accompany her.
"My flight is my job.
"I'll be the first Russian woman who will fly to the ISS. I feel a huge responsibility towards the people who taught and trained us and I want to tell them: we won't let you down!"
The 38-year-old engineer has spent the last seven years training for the role. On Thursday she is due to blast off in a Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan with NASA’s Barry Wilmore and the Russian cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev.
The reports which followed the press conference contained references to her “dark hair pulled into a tight bun”. And yet, no mention was made of any of her male colleagues’ hair style or concerns about their relationship with their respective children while they are away.
Ms Serova, who hails from a village in Eastern Russia, studied engineering at the Moscow Aviation Institute. She was personally chosen for this mission by Vladimir Popovkin, the former head of Russia’s space agency.
Valentina Tereshkova, the Soviet cosmonaut, was the first woman in space in 1963. It took nearly 20 years for the next female to follow her.
Igor Marinin, editor of Russian magazine Space News, claimed that the Soviet Union had wanted to win the space race with Ms Tereshkova, but then stopped using women for many years because they were not seen as “physically strong enough”.
"In space, it's men's work. The leadership then were military; they decided not to take women as cosmonauts any more,” he explained.
Mr Marinin added: "We are doing this flight for Russia's image," he said. "She [Ms Serova] will manage it, but the next woman won't fly out soon."
My wife Angela was born in Africa and from the age of four was raised in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, growing up on safari: she was already living half my dream. Angela’s soul mates were bush babies and mongooses, rich fare compared to the domestic cats and dogs that were my companions as a child in England, though the sudden emergence of a ferret or two from the deep pockets of the local gamekeeper’s greatcoat – all fiery-eyed, wraithlike suppleness – certainly added a bit of spice to life on our farm in Berkshire. When I graduated to hamsters and guinea pigs, then slow worms and grass snakes, I thought that was pretty exciting, but by the time I left my home in England forty years ago in search of adventure in Africa, I was dreaming of a life among wild animals – the bigger the better.
Tales of ‘derring-do’, particularly when played out among large charismatic creatures in the world’s wild places, have always found a ready audience, and not just for those living a more sedate urban existence. The film Born Free featuring legendary Kenya game warden George Adamson, his eccentric wife Joy and their lioness Elsa certainly caught my attention and fuelled my ambitions growing up in England. So did the popular 1960s TV series On Safari featuring the intrepid filmmakers Armand and Michaela Dennis racing around the wilds of Africa in their open-top jeep, bouncing from one near-death experience to another – or so it seemed. But if Angie and I have learned anything from living among large and potentially dangerous wild animals here in Africa, it’s that when trouble strikes it is invariably due to ignorance, complacency or incaution on the part of the people involved, igniting the animals’ natural defensive response in protecting themselves or their young from real or perceived harm. A leopard wounded by a trophy hunter, a cow elephant anxious for the safety of her young calf or a buffalo surprised in thick bush can all be terrifyingly unforgiving adversaries when they charge towards you. Surviving such an incident is certainly something to write home about and a tasty item for the press.
We have surprised all the large charismatic African animals at close quarters – the lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, rhinos, hippos (along with a variety of venomous snakes). We have run from feisty hippos in the Mara while listening to them chomping their teeth with displeasure, and a bull elephant called Tyson charged us while filming in Tsavo National Park and trashed US$50,000 of camera equipment as we ran for our lives. Angie nearly sat on a puff adder during a tea break in the bush, while many years earlier I noosed an Egyptian cobra in Botswana with a homemade catching stick that snapped in two, freeing the snake to strike just inches from my face. And then there was the time near Governor’s Camp when I unintentionally shared the back seat of our safari vehicle with a large male baboon intent on stealing my treasured bag of crisps and brandishing canines the size of my thumb to intimidate me. All of these incidents were guaranteed to get the adrenalin pumping – and in the main thoroughly avoidable.
But the reality is that it is the little creatures you never see – except perhaps in a biology class or under a microscope in a tropical diseases laboratory – that are most likely to put you in hospital or even kill you. A million people die of malaria in Africa each year, mostly children under the age of five. I contracted my first dose of malaria along with a gut-wrenching bout of amoebic dysentery in 1974 while travelling overland through the Central African Republic and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). If you want to lose a few pounds fast that’s the way to do it. Hard as it is, the best defence against malaria is to forgo the more comfortable shorts and sandals for long trousers and socks in the evening, smother yourself with insect repellent and sleep under a well-secured mosquito net treated with repellent. Easy of course in hindsight – we slept under the stars on camp beds, often without mosquito nets or with ones that were woefully inadequate.
Ironically, though, the most frightening incident Angie and I have faced wasn’t in Africa at all. It was during one of our many expeditions to Antarctica. The beauty of the frozen south is that most of the creatures you encounter on land are completely unafraid of man. Elephant seals might weigh up to four tons and look pretty fearsome but they mostly slumber like giant slabs of lard along the pebble beaches, while penguins wander up to you confident that you mean them no harm.
The one creature that everyone tells you to be wary of is the Antarctic fur seal – particularly during the breeding season when the testosterone-fuelled males are at their feistiest. This coincides with the Antarctic summer when tourism is at its peak. You only have to watch the rival ‘beachmasters’, as the mature dominant male fur seals are known, charging across the beaches to compete for the right to mate with females (barely a week after they have given birth) to know that these are animals to be avoided. Unlike true seals that move about like velvety sacks of potatoes, the eared seals comprising the sea lions and fur seals are able to run faster than Usain Bolt. Due to their ability to direct their hind flippers forwards, they can launch themselves towards you at a startling gallop. Add to that a set of teeth to rival a leopard’s and you have a 110 kilogram running machine that can tear through human flesh and leave a nasty infected wound. But by listening to sound advice we have always managed to avoid trouble. That is, until we came face to face with a Hooker’s sea lion – which looks like a fur seal, but double the size.
We were on a one-month semi-circumnavigation of Antarctica travelling on the Kapitan Khlebnikov, the legendary Russian icebreaker outfitted with helicopters to help find a way through the ice. Our expedition included visits to emperor penguins in the Ross Sea, helicopter flights to the ancient polar deserts known as the dry valleys, and the opportunity to pay our respects to Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds, from where he so nearly reached the South Pole. Most moving of all was our pilgrimage to Sir Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans on Ross Island. Scott and his four companions set out for the South Pole on the 24 October 1911, never to return. By the time we arrived at New Zealand’s subantarctic Campbell Islands we were filled with a sense of elation at having travelled to one of the most remote and barely habitable regions on earth, overwhelmed by its indescribable beauty. One last landing before Christchurch and the journey would come to an end.
Our Expedition Leader was a rather gruff but highly competent Canadian mariner. Shane was built like a grizzly bear with a beard to match. It had been a long trip, complicated by an outbreak of the dreaded norovirus or cruise ship virus, a highly contagious dysentery that spreads like wildfire. Vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and a mild fever can dull the enthusiasm of the most hardened traveller, and managing the guests’ expectations had proved quite a challenge for Shane and the expedition crew. When we found the pack ice barring our way to the American base at McMurdo, some of the guests became very grumpy indeed. But all had been forgiven and forgotten by the time Campbell Island came into view, and we were excited at the thought of photographing the handful of royal albatrosses that breed here during the summer months.
As we stepped ashore Shane reminded us to be particularly careful about the Hooker’s sea lions, also known as New Zealand sea lions, and to give them a wide berth. Angie and I nevertheless set off at a gallop, anxious to spend as much time with the albatrosses as we could. A long, winding, wooden stairway trailed off into the distance pointing us in the direction of the breeding colony. The vegetation reminded us of the stunted treescape from Lord of the Rings, straggly trees and bushes forming an interlocking tapestry of vegetation on either side of the boardwalk with a maze of tunnels and pathways where the sea lions sought access between the beaches and the higher ground.
I walked ahead of Angie, carrying a large rucksack full of camera gear on my back and a heavy tripod in one hand. Halfway along the trail a large male sea lion trundled into view, flip-flopping down the boardwalk. Shane’s instructions had been to retreat in orderly fashion towards the ship if this happened. But having slogged this far up the path I was reluctant to head back. All we needed to do was to step off the walkway into the vegetation and the sea lion would surely continue on its way.
I told Angie to stay behind me, and stepped into the undergrowth. The sea lion, now moving rapidly towards us, decided that my way was his way. Did he envisage me as a rival perhaps? Was he attracted and antagonised by my movements? Or did he simply want to head for the beach along the same pathway he always used? Whatever was going through his mind it was evident that he now intended confronting me.
Animals tend to look even larger seen up close on foot. Given that the average male Hooker’s sea lion weighs 320–450 kilograms and is 2.4–3.5 metres in length – twice the weight of a male African lion and longer – I had every reason to be concerned at my predicament. As the sea lion lumbered towards me with mouth agape revealing some very impressive teeth, I stepped backwards and instantly fell flat on my back in the bushes. I was thankful to be wearing a pair of heavy-duty insulated Antarctic rubber boots that along with my tripod I instinctively thrust towards the sea lion’s open mouth, uttering every significant swear word I have ever wanted to string together in one previously unutterable sentence. The bull towered over me, looking every inch the heaving, huffing and puffing ‘mountain-of-flesh-with-teeth’ that is so intimidating to smaller rivals. Then, much to my relief, my venomous tirade, flailing rubber boots and club-like tripod did the trick and he turned and disappeared into the darkened world beneath the vegetation.
Shaken and barely able to rise from the ground with my heavy rucksack still strapped to my back, I staggered to my feet, double-checking that all my toes were still intact. I turned to look for Angie, expecting to be told what an idiot I was. But there was no sign of her. Then to my horror I heard yelling.
Angie had taken a tumble down the slope and was now desperately trying to scramble up and over shrubs and bushes pursued by a wave of moving vegetation that I knew could only be the sea lion. I galloped towards her, shouting and screaming at the top of my voice, desperately trying to reach her before the sea lion could bite her. At that moment she fell again with the sea lion barely a metre away. It felt as if I was running over an obstacle course as stunted trees collapsed under my headlong charge down the slope, a hundred fibrous arms reaching out to snag and trip my every step. When I reached Angie there was a sense of utter relief as we realised that the sea lion had gone and the terror of the moment drained from our faces. Only later did we discover that Angie had damaged a disc in her lower back when she twisted and fell, an injury that persists to this day as a reminder of our lucky escape.
We hobbled back to the pathway and as we did so, for an awful moment, the vegetation below us began to ripple and swirl again as the sea lion came back to haunt us one last time, exhibiting the same dogged persistence that makes the males such formidable foes in their battle for supremacy against members of their own kind. Most of the passengers had no idea of what had taken place, except for one or two who asked us later what we had been doing down there – had we seen something particularly interesting to photograph? All I could think about was what kind of roasting I would have endured from Shane if I had been mauled; all those years of experience garnered while living in the wild would have counted for nothing. When I spoke to him later he smiled and said:
‘Any seasoned mariner will tell you that you can get a nasty infection from contact with a Hooker – in fact the infection is often worse than the bite!’
Las Vegas hotel threatens $50 fine if guests chill their own drinks in their in-room fridges.
It's a popular way to avoid forking out for expensive mini-bar drinks - buy a bottle of wine or water, or even a sandwich, from a local supermarket, and pop it in your in-room fridge for later.
But now at least one hotel, the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, is trying to stamp out the practice by threatening to fine guests $50 (£30.65) if they do so.
The warning was spotted by an Keri Anderson, a travel blogger from Washington, after she stored her own wine in the fridge during a recent stay.
Hotels in Las Vegas are renowned for their hidden charges, and guests are advised to read the small print before booking a room, or using any amenities.
But even as an experienced traveller, and co-founder of travel blogging site HeelsFirstTravel.com, Ms Anderson said she was shocked at the $50 "restocking" fee - especially considering the hotel charges up to $595 (£365) for a room.
“I had never encountered these sorts of charges before,” she told MailOnline.“I've stayed in a bunch of hotels from a small boutique hotel on Easter Island, to a luxury suite overlooking the Bangkok skyline, to a two-bedroom villa on Koh Samui, and never come across this kind of fee.”
As David Millward reported for Telegraph Travel in June, hotels in the US often offer competitive room rates to lure in holidaymakers, before adding an unavoidable "resort fee", which covers use of Wi-Fi and leisure facilities, such as a gym or swimming pool. Guests cannot opt out of the charges by declining to use these additional services.
Sara Benson, Telegraph Travel's Las Vegas expert, said resort charges started appearing during the recession, but, despite the financial crisis easing, hotels have kept the charges which enable them to boost revenue while appearing to offer rooms at competitive rates. The practice has now spread to other popular holiday destinations worldwide.
Nobu's reign as a leading light on London's restaurant scene may be over as it is stripped of its Michelin stars
London’s famous celebrity hangout Nobu has been stripped of its Michelin star in the latest UK guide.
The Japanese fusion restaurant in Park Lane and its sister branch in Berkeley Street have both had their one-star status removed.
Nobu opened in London’s Metropolitan Hotel in 1997 and was awarded a Michelin star the same year for the 1998 Guide.
It was the first European venture of celebrated Japanese sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa who launched it in collaboration with Hollywood actor Robert De Niro, restaurateur Drew Nieporent, and hotel owner Christina Ong.
It quickly became a favourite haunt for the rich and famous with frequent visits from the likes of Kate Moss, Brad Pitt and Elton John.
In 2005 Nobu Berkeley Street was unveiled with a menu created by Mr Matsuhisa and executive chef Mark Edwards, and claimed a Michelin Star just five months later.
Now Nobu’s 16-year reign as one of London’s most desirable dining experiences appears to be over.
The restaurants were among a number of prestigious London eateries which have been downgraded in the latest guide.
Chapter One restaurant in Bromley, which first claimed the award in 2001, has been left star-less
Medlar in Chelsea, with its French inspired menu, has also had its star removed.
Others including Apsleys, the Hyde Park Corner restaurant set up by famous German chef Heinz Beck, and television chef Tom Aiken’s Chelsea restaurant have lost their stars due to temporary closures for renovation and relocation schemes.
The change marks a move towards more informal dining with gastro-pubs and relaxed “hipster hangouts” taking on Britain’s traditional fine dining restaurants in this year’s Michelin Guide.
The 2015 guide has awarded 14 new stars to eateries including three country pubs, a tapas bar, a curry house and a restaurant set within a champagne and hotdog bar.
Michelin Guide editor Rebecca Burr said there was an ongoing trend towards more relaxed dining settings which was reflected in this year’s list.
She praised the huge diversity seen among Britain’s top restaurants which boast cuisines from all over the world.
“The 14 new stars in our 2015 guide highlight the enormous richness and variety of the UK’s restaurant scene.
“They range from country pubs to hipster hangouts, from counter-restaurants to classic dining rooms”, she said.
Two newly starred London restaurants, Soho-based Spanish tapas bar Barrafina and the Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs, in Bloomsbury serve food at counters.
The Clove Club, a bar restaurant in Shoreditch which gained its first star this year, was set up by a team who cut their teeth in pop-ups.
Three gastro-pubs, The Treby Arms in Devon, The Cross at Kenilworth in Warwickshire and the Star Inn in north Yorkshire, where visitors can enjoy a three course dinner for just over £30, have all gained their first stars this year.
The team at Indian restaurant Gymkhana are also celebrating a Michelin star rating.
The new stars are spread across the UK with two in Wales, two on the Scottish islands and one in Cornwall.
They include Isle of Eriska in Eriska and Three Chimneys and The House Over-By on the Isle of Skye, Ynyshir Hall in Machynlleth, and the Crown at Whitebrook in Monmouth.
Cornwall's latest star has gone to Port Isaac's Nathan Outlaw and his Outlaw's Fish Kitchen.
Ms Burr said: “London does still dominate the list but there are great restaurants all over the country and in areas where one good restaurant opens up often others follow.
“There’s some fantastic deals to be had as more talent chefs turn their attention to gastro-pubs and other less formal set ups.
“People often say, ‘Oh, Michelin is changing, they’re recognising more informal places’, but it is not us, it is the industry that is changing.”
The Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2015 is £15.99 in most bookshops.
It might be a country known for its rejection of outside influences, but North Korea finally looks to be catching up with the rest of the world in terms of fashion.
Pyongyang, the socialist country's capital, now sees many women walking its streets in high-heeled shoes and wearing figure-hugging clothes. They also sport contemporary east Asian hairstyles and carry smart handbags.
Men too have started to wear more flattering clothes; clothes such as tight shirts with sharper, harder collars. Skinny trousers, however, are not yet fashionable there.
Ten years ago, Pyongyang residents walked around in loose-fitting, utilitarian outfits like the "Jumper" - a khaki, military-style zip-fronted top and trouser suit that was favoured by North Korea's previous leader, Kim Jong Il.
The country's current leader, King Jong-un tends to favour dark military-style suits.
Kim Su Jong, a Pyongyang citizen, said: "nowadays it's clear that clothes have become very bright. In the past the colours were a little dark."
Clothes, shoes, and accessories and now more easily available with most imported from China.
Despite the evolving fashion, jeans are still unpopular in North Korea.
"We don't have to like jeans", Kim Su Jong added. "Why should I wear that kind of jeans, it looks ugly, we have our own style."
Schools were closed, banks were shuttered and bankers and lawyers were forced to take the subway as protesters chanting for democracy continued to occupy the centre of Hong Kong on Monday morning.
Riot police armed with tear gas and teams of officers armed with rifles failed to disperse a crowd of tens of thousands who began streaming into central Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon.
Instead, protesters camped overnight on Hong Kong island and in Kowloon, defying periodic tear gas and baton charges by the police and choosing to ignore rumors that the police would fire rubber bullets.
By the time of the morning rush hour, eight-lane highways were deserted and more than 200 bus routes had to be diverted or suspended. Although the number of protesters began to thin out as some went to work, it is likely that the crowd will swell again during the day.
One shopping centre near the government headquarters, the focus for the protests, flew its Chinese flag upside down in defiance. In Kowloon, protesters sang Cantonese rock anthems and chanted for the police to go on strike.
Hong Kong's school teachers union voted for a strike on Sunday, but those schools that did open on Monday saw student walk-outs.
The continuing chaos sent markets tumbling in Asia's financial capital, with the main Hang Seng index falling 1.73 per cent in its opening hour.
Anson Chan, Hong Kong's former second-in-command, said the scenes in central Hong Kong on Sunday night had disgraced the city. "This is a sad day," she said. "Pictures of our police force firing pepper spray and tear gas into the faces of unarmed protesters will shame our government in front of the whole world."
She said the current administration, by endorsing Beijing's plan to control the 2017 election for Hong Kong's mayor, known locally as the chief executive, had "paved the way for the current crisis".
The protests are the first major test for Xi Jinping, China's president, who came to power last year. On the mainland, censors worked to scrub any news of Hong Kong from reaching the Internet, while newspapers were told not to cover the story.
The Global Times, in its English language edition, continued to suggest that unrest in Hong Kong was being stirred up by foreign forces, saying that Western newspapers had seized on the protests and made comparisons with the Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989.
Regina Ip, Hong Kong's former security chief and a Beijing loyalist, told the South China Morning Post that the protest, which began with a student sit-in outside Hong Kong's government offices on Friday, had the potential to evolve into a "mini-Tiananmen".
"On the face of it, the students are voicing their demands for democracy and self-determination," Ms Ip said. "I think the worry on the part of the Hong Kong government is, what if it becomes a mini-Tiananmen? Who is behind it?"
She described the students, many of whom took part in Sunday's protests, as uncivilized. "They remind you of Tiananmen, the protesters asking for dialogue with the chief executive and surrounding the chief executive's office. If the police are driven to disperse them by force, it could turn sour and sinister," she said.
Sunday saw the angriest protests seen since Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, involving a reported 30,000 people.
The protests follow an angry summer in Hong Kong, with activists accusing the Chinese government of reneging on promises for a free election to choose the region's next mayor, locally known as the chief executive, in 2017.
China has promised universal suffrage – one person, one vote – but intends to control the selection of candidates.
A British parliamentary inquiry is under way, much to Beijing's irritation, into the proposed election plans and Richard Ottaway, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has said China may have breached the terms of the handover.
In February 2011 an artificially intelligent computer system called IBM Watson astonished audiences worldwide by beating the two all-time greatest Jeopardy champions at their own game.
Thanks to its ability to apply advanced natural language processing, information retrieval, knowledge representation, automated reasoning, and machine learning technologies, Watson consistently outperformed its human opponents on the American quiz show Jeopardy.
Watson represented an important milestone in the development of artificial intelligence, but the field has been progressing rapidly – particularly with regard to natural language processing and machine learning.
In 2012, Google used 16,000 computer processors to build a simulated brain that could correctly identify cats in YouTube videos ; the Kinect, which provides a 3D body-motion interface for Microsoft's Xbox, uses algorithms that emerged from artificial intelligence research, as does the iPhone's Siri virtual personal assistant.
Today a new artificial intelligence computing system has been unveiled, which promises to transform the global workforce. Named 'Amelia' after American aviator and pioneer Amelia Earhart, the system is able to shoulder the burden of often tedious and laborious tasks, allowing human co-workers to take on more creative roles.
"Watson is perhaps the best data analytics engine that exists on the planet; it is the best search engine that exists on the planet; but IBM did not set out to create a cognitive agent. It wanted to build a program that would win Jeopardy, and it did that," said Chetan Dube, chief executive Officer of IPsoft, the company behind Amelia.
"Amelia, on the other hand, started out not with the intention of winning Jeopardy, but with the pure intention of answering the question posed by Alan Turing in 1950 – can machines think?"
Amelia learns by following the same written instructions as her human colleagues, but is able to absorb information in a matter of seconds. She understands the full meaning of what she reads rather than simply recognizing individual words. This involves understanding context, applying logic and inferring implications.
When exposed to the same information as any new employee in a company, Amelia can quickly apply her knowledge to solve queries in a wide range of business processes. Just like any smart worker she learns from her colleagues and, by observing their work, she continually builds her knowledge.
While most ‘smart machines’ require humans to adapt their behaviour in order to interact with them, Amelia is intelligent enough to interact like a human herself. She speaks more than 20 languages, and her core knowledge of a process needs only to be learned once for her to be able to communicate with customers in their language.
Independently, rather than through time-intensive programming, Amelia creates her own 'process map' of the information she is given so that she can work out for herself what actions to take depending on the problem she is solving.
"Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge. If a system claims to be intelligent, it must be able to read and understand documents, and answer questions on the basis of that. It must be able to understand processes that it observes. It must be able to solve problems based on the knowledge it has acquired. And when it cannot solve a problem, it must be capable of learning the solution through noticing how a human did it," said Dube.
IPsoft has been working on this technology for 15 years with the aim of developing a platform that does not simply mimic human thought processes but can comprehend the underlying meaning of what is communicated – just like a human.
Just as machines transformed agriculture and manufacturing, IPsoft believes that cognitive technologies will drive the next evolution of the global workforce, so that in the future companies will have digital workforces that comprise a mixture of human and virtual employees.
Amelia has already been trialled within a number of Fortune 1000 companies, in areas such as manning technology help desks, procurement processing, financial trading operations support and providing expert advice for field engineers.
In each of these environments, she has learnt not only from reading existing manuals and situational context but also by observing and working with her human colleagues and discerning for herself a map of the business processes being followed.
In a help desk situation, for example, Amelia can understand what a caller is looking for, ask questions to clarify the issue, find and access the required information and determine which steps to follow in order to solve the problem.
As a knowledge management advisor, she can help engineers working in remote locations who are unable to carry detailed manuals, by diagnosing the cause of failed machinery and guiding them towards the best steps to rectifying the problem.
During these trials, Amelia was able to go from solving very few queries independently to 42 per cent of the most common queries within one month. By the second month she could answer 64 per cent of those queries independently.
"That’s a true learning cognitive agent. Learning is the key to the kingdom, because humans learn from experience. A child may need to be told five times before they learn something, but Amelia needs to be told only once," said Dube.
"Amelia is that Mensa kid, who personifies a major breakthrough in cognitive technologies."
Analysts at Gartner predict that, by 2017, managed services offerings that make use of autonomics and cognitive platforms like Amelia will drive a 60 per cent reduction in the cost of services, enabling organisations to apply human talent to higher level tasks requiring creativity, curiosity and innovation.
"The robots have got a fair degree of sophistication in all the mechanical functions – the ability to climb up stairs, the ability to run, the ability to play ping pong. What they don’t have is the brain, and we’ll be supplementing that brain part with Amelia," said Dube.
"I am convinced that in the next decade you’ll pass someone in the corridor and not be able to discern if it’s a human or an android."
Given the premise of IPsoft's artificial intelligence system, it seems logical that the ultimate measure of Amelia's success would be passing the Turing Test – which sets out to see whether humans can discern whether they are interacting with a human or a machine.
Earlier this year, a chatbot named Eugene Goostman became the first machine to pass the Turing Test by convincingly imitating a 13-year-old boy. In a five-minute keyboard conversation with a panel of human judges, Eugene managed to convince 33 per cent that it was human.
Interestingly, however, IPsoft believes that the Turing Test needs reframing, to redefine what it means to 'think'. While Eugene was able to imitate natural language, he was only mimicking understanding. He did not learn from the interaction, nor did he demonstrate problem solving skills.
"Natural language understanding is a big step up from parsing. Parsing is syntactic, understanding is semantic, and there’s a big cavern between the two," said Dube.
"The aim of Amelia is not just to get an accolade for managing to fool one in three people on a panel. The assertion is to create something that can answer to the fundamental need of human beings – particularly after a certain age – of companionship. That is our intent."
In response to Iran’s strategic grip over oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz, a new export route for crude from the Persian Gulf is growing on the coast of the Arabian Sea, with the potential to transform global energy markets.
Giant tankers now queue in lines stretching for miles to load oil or refuel at Fujairah — a sleepy sheikhdom in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — after the government invested billions of dollars into building a giant oil pipeline across the rugged Hajar mountains, with the aim of ending the potential stranglehold that Iran could place on the nation’s exports of crude.
The 21-mile-wide Hormuz channel handles a third of the world’s oil-tanker traffic and connects the Persian Gulf’s sheikhdoms to the Arabian Sea. Fears that Tehran could choke off exports shipped through it have been a concern weighing on oil markets for decades.
In 2008, worries that Iran would blockade the strait helped to send oil prices skyrocketing to a record $147 per barrel, a level not achieved since. But the opening of a 240-mile long, 48in-wide export pipeline two years ago, linking the UAE’s biggest oil fields with the Arabian Sea, has alleviated these concerns and could now transform Fujairah from a quiet port used by ships to refuel into a global energy trans-shipment hub.
“Fujairah is the only emirate that has significant access to the ocean, and it has been on our eye to utilise this strategic position and location as an export route,” Suhail Al-Mazrouei, minister of energy for the UAE, told The Daily Telegraph, on the sidelines of an energy forum hosted by The Gulf Intelligence.
“The infrastructure that Fujairah now has today and will have in the future makes it a major city and a major destination for the energy sector.”
The pipeline from Habshan in the emirate of Abu Dhabi currently carries about 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude — equal to Britain’s entire output from the North Sea — but has the capacity to handle up to 1.5m bpd.
The advantage for oil tankers loading crude in Fujairah is that vital delivery time is saved that otherwise would be wasted sailing back and forth through the overcrowded Strait of Hormuz. Loading at Fujairah is also cheaper for tankers, which don’t have to pay the costly indemnity rates required to enter the Persian Gulf.
The logic of shifting more export capacity outside the Gulf is also catching on with other exporters in the region. Oman is planning to build a new multibillion-dollar oil export hub at Ras Markaz, about 450 miles south of the UAE. Although the sultanate already loads and stores its own crude from outside the Gulf, the Ras Markaz will provide it with enough capacity potentially to export oil from other countries in the region.
In addition, the government of the UAE plans to invest billions of dollars to build the largest facilities to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the entire Middle East at Fujairah to help meet surging domestic demand for electricity and desalinated water. According to Mr Al-Mazrouie, Fujairah is the most strategically secure location in the emirates to build the new facilities.
“We are going to import LNG and the UK is already importing LNG so that makes the people of the UAE and the UK concerned about the security of the same commodity.
“It is the same when you are talking about the utilization of energy as a whole. I think energy, whether in the UK or Germany or here, is everyone’s concern.
“We’re concerned on the level of consumption — we want to reduce consumption, to learn from Europe on the conservation of energy, and we are adopting new laws on the conservation of energy because of this. So when it comes to the subject of energy, I think we are all connected, like it or not,” he said.
Aside from the new LNG import facilities, major projects are planned to expand its crude oil storage capacity to 12m barrels and to provide loading infrastructure for huge 330-meter-long (360-yard) class of tankers known as Very Large Crude Carriers.
“The Habshan oil pipeline has given companies the confidence to invest in Fujairah for the first time,” said Capt Mousa Morad, general manager of the port of Fujairah. “We are emulating Dubai but for the sea.”
Although Fujairah’s recent growth has come mainly from the new pipeline, the port has played an important role as a safe bunkering terminal ever since shipping in the Gulf was threatened during the Iran-Iraq war in the early Eighties.
The presence last week of a Chinese naval flotilla reportedly visiting the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas in the Gulf for the first time is further evidence of potential future flash points.
However, the strategic location of Fujairah at the gateway to the world’s biggest oilfields was even apparent as early as the Second World War.
A few miles off the coast lies the wreck of a German U-boat sunk by a British bomber in 1943 on its way to the Gulf. The submarine — the only such vessel thought to have reached the Arabian Peninsula in the war — had been sent by Adolf Hitler to sink British tankers bringing vital fuel out of the region.
Today, the submarine, which rests at the bottom of the Arabian Sea, is near a popular local fishing spot, but it is also a poignant reminder of Fujairah’s strategic location at the gateway to a region that lays claim to 60pc of the world’s proven oil reserves.
When 1,200 university students calmly staged a sit-in outside Hong Kong’s government offices on Friday to call for greater democracy, no one foresaw the chain of events that transformed the city into a battlefield wreathed with tear gas just 48 hours later.
But as the police desperately and aggressively tried to disperse the protestors, they only succeeded in inflaming a public already angry at Beijing’s creeping interference in their lives.
The first mistake came when officers pepper-sprayed students in front of the television cameras. In one video clip that went viral, an elderly lady who had come to observe the protest was swivelled around by a police man who then sprayed her in the face.
Soon, thousands of people flocked to the government compound to watch what was going on, chanting to the police: “Don’t harm the students!”
Many of the tens of thousands who occupied downtown Hong Kong through Sunday and Monday said they had come after seeing the violence of the police on television.
Stephanie Wong, a 36-year-old who joined a huge crowd outside Hong Kong Police Headquarters after finishing work yesterday (MON) afternoon said: “People are outraged at the way police behaved and a lot of us are here in solidarity today with the students who were subjected to that.”
As they were faced with ever more protestors, however, the police simply doubled down their strategy, hoping to disperse the crowds quickly by firing tear gas.
“The police force management realise they got it badly wrong. Their aim was to clear the centre of Hong Kong before the working week began on Monday at all costs but they miscalculated the resistance they would come up against,” one police source told The Telegraph.
“By going in so forcefully with tear gas and pepper spray, they have just brought more and more people out on the streets.”
He added: “A lot of the officers who were there on Sunday had already been on duty for 30 hours when trouble broke out and there were no reserves to take their places on Monday. So it was a gamble that backfired and now they are swamped by protestors.”
On Monday, police officers manning checkpoints around the protest areas were visibly exhausted, with some dozing against barriers in the afternoon sun before being prodded awake by their commanders. Hong Kong has 25,000 police officers to respond to the protests, and may shortly run out of manpower.
The police, however, insisted it had only used “appropriate and necessary force” and “only the minimum necessary”. A spokesman denied that any rubber or plastic bullets had been fired, contrary to rumours.
Both Hong Kong and Beijing have labelled the protests as illegal and it is unclear how much longer the authorities will tolerate such an embarrassing situation, especially ahead of China’s National Day on Wednesday.
In the Global Times, a nationalistic state-run newspaper, an editorial blasted the protests as the work of “anti-China forces”. Wang Qiang, a professor at the People’s Armed Police college, said “no sovereign country can tolerate this kind of incident indefinitely”.
He added that it was within China’s law and constitution for the People’s Armed Police to be sent to Hong Kong to resolve the crisis.
“The PAP is an armed force set up to maintain social stability and national security and has the duty of dealing with riots, serious criminal acts and so on. Armed police are part of China’s power and can be used according to national law […] If the armed police is needed to carry out security tasks there are no barriers to it in the law,” he wrote. His editorial was later scrubbed from the Global Times’ website.
Zhang Lifan, a historian in Beijing, said the two sides were playing “a game of cat and mouse”. “Just because the riot police have withdrawn, it does not mean the government in Hong Kong or Beijing sanctions the protests,” he said.
“The same thing happened before June 4 (the Tiananmen massacre). When the students were aggressive, the government sometimes fell back,” he said.
He added that opinions among the Beijing leadership were currently divided on whether to launch a hardline response. “But certainly CY Leung (Hong Kong’s chief executive) and Beijing’s representative in Hong Kong will both be in trouble”.
Additional reporting by Adam Wu.
The company founded by Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, and Max Levchin has spawned three billionaires, many, many millionaires, and generation-defining companies. Here, we break down the key players from the most notorious group in Silicon Valley.
The picture above features some of the most poorly dressed men of the 2000s. Behold the outsized sportswear, the leather blazers, the silky shirts. But these men can afford to both laugh off our criticism and buy several new wardrobes. For they are the ‘PayPal Mafia’ and between them, these 13 men are worth billions and billions of dollars. And to be fair to them, they were styled as faux gangsters for the 2007 Fortune magazine shoot that birthed their infamous moniker. Mick Brown recently met PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel for an extraordinary Telegraph Magazine feature. The vast success enjoyed by Thiel and his former colleagues got us thinking: how did one company breed such a remarkable crop of entrepreneurs and capitalists? Click on the famous Fortune photograph below and discover exactly who the PayPal Mafia are.
1. Jawed Karim
Role in PayPal: Designed and implemented PayPal’s incendiary real-time anti-fraud system, among other key components of the business.
After PayPal: Karim, Chad Hurley (designer of PayPal’s first logo) and Steve Chen (another PayPal colleague and early Facebook employee) founded a video sharing site in 2005. They named it YouTube. Soon after developing the fledgling site, Karim enrolled at Stanford University where, despite having already displayed a certain acumen in this area, he chose to study computer science. He continued to act as an advisor to YouTube before cashing in 137,443 shares of stock (worth a cool $64 million) when Google purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion in November 2006. Now 35, Karim launched a business called Youniversity Ventures in 2008 aimed at helping students and graduates develop business ideas with early PayPal investors Kevin Hartz and Keith Rabols.
Estimated net worth: $140 million
2. Jeremy Stoppelman (below)
Role in PayPal: Joined PayPal as an engineer whilst it was known as X.com, eventually becoming the Vice President of Engineering.
Post-PayPal: Resigned soon after PayPal was picked up by eBay for $1.5 billion in 2003, taking a year to attend Harvard Business School. Inspired whilst poorly with flu and finding it tricky to find decent doctor recommendations, he and a former colleague Russel Simmons dreamed up the idea for online reviews site Yelp in 2004 and convinced former PayPal Chief Technology Officer Max Levchin to put up $1 million in initial funding. Steve Jobs convinced him to reject Google’s acquisition offer in 2010 and in 2012, Yelp became a public limited company. But it’s not been a smooth recent few years: Yelp reviewers leaving negative reviews have faced legal action from affronted businesses and the site’s faced accusations of handing positive reviews to advertisers.
Estimated net worth: $111-$222 million
3. Andrew McCormack
Role in PayPal: Joined in 2001, working closely as an assistant to Peter Thiel as the company prepared for its initial public offering (IPO)
After PayPal: Helped set-up another Thiel venture, hedge fund company Clarium Capital before founding a restaurant group in San Francisco. Currently a partner at venture capital firm Valar Ventures, he found his way back to Thiel in 2008 to join Thiel Capital via corporate development roles at eCount (now part of US banking conglomerate Citigroup) and Yahoo!.
Estimated net worth: Unknown
4. Premal Shah
Role in PayPal: Spent six years at the company as a product manager.
After PayPal: Became President of non-profit organisation Kiva, which allows people to lend money to struggling entrepreneurs and students in over 70 countries via the internet. Founded by former programmer Matt Flannery and his businesswoman ex-wife Jessica Jackeley, the site was raising around $1 million every three days by November 2013.
Estimated net worth: Unknown
5. Luke Nosek
Role in PayPal: One of the co-founders, alongside Thiel, Elon Musk and Ken Howery and his friend from the University of Illinois, Max Levchin and Vice President of Marketing and Strategy.
After PayPal: Departed after the eBay takeover and travelled the world, before founding San Francisco venture capital firm Founders Firm (slogan: ‘We wanted flying cars, we got 140 characters’) with Thiel and Howery in 2005. Has spoken extensively about the benefits of brain training through meditation.
Estimated net worth: Unknown
6. Ken Howery
Role in PayPal: A co-founder and Chief Financial Officer between 1998-2002.
After PayPal: Hung around as eBay’s Director of Corporate Development for just under a year after the takeover, before rejoining Thiel as vice president of private equity at Clarium Capital in 2004. Started Founders Fund less than 12 months later with Thiel and Nosek. In 2012, he co-founded Popexpert, an online learning platform that allows users to connect face-to-face with experts across a broad range of fields. Howery’s available for consulting sessions if you have a spare few $100,000.
Estimated net worth: Unknown
7. David Sacks (above)
Role in PayPal: Joining from management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, Sacks became PayPal’s chief operating officer.
After PayPal: Sacks boasts one of the Mafia’s more diverse post-PayPal CVs. After eBay assumed control, he left for Hollywood and produced and financed the Golden Globe nominated 2005 movie Thank You for Smoking. The next year, he founded genealogy website. Frustrations with inter-office communication led him to develop a productivity tool to help employees share information. This was to become the social network Yammer. Mircosoft acquired the company for $1.2 billion in July 2012. Sacks was named corporate vice president in Microsoft’s Office Division. He hit the headlines in 2012 after throwing himself history’s most gauche 40th birthday party. The theme? ‘Let them eat cake’ French revolution. The entertainment? Snoop Dogg. The cost? A reported $1.4 million.
Estimated net worth: Unknown
8. Peter Thiel
Role in Paypal: Co-founder and CEO.
After PayPal: After earning $55 million from his 3.7 per cent stake in the eBay deal, Thiel immediately founded hedge fund Clarium Capital, a global macro hedge fund and made the ludicrously savvy decision to angel invest $500,000 in fledgling social network Facebook. Thiel was the first outside investor in the company and sold almost has made over $1 billion selling his shares. You can read Mick Brown’s in-depth profile on Thiel right here.
Estimated net worth: $2.2 billion
9. Keith Rabois
Role in PayPal: Held the nicely extravagant title of Executive Vice President, Business Development, Public Affairs and Policy between November 2000 and November 2002.
After PayPal: Regarded as a very useful person to have around at a start-up, Rabois went onto hold senior positions at LinkedIn (more on that in a minute), Max Levchin’s Slide (a company responsible for slideshows and animations in social networks) and electronic payment firm Square (founded by Twitter’s Jack Dorsey). Controversy accompanied his exit from Square, with a threat of a lawsuit over sexual harassment claims by a male employee who allegedly obtained a job at the company after beginning a relationship with Rabois. Which makes Gawker’s accusations of Rabois’ undergraduate homophobia all the more disturbing. Rabois is now a partner at venture capital outfit Khosla Ventures and serves on the board of directors at Yelp and Xoom.
Estimated net worth: $1 billion
10. Reid Hoffman
Role in PayPal: Joined from the world’s first (failed) social network SocialNet to become a member of the board of directors, then went full-time to become PayPal’s COO. By the time of the 2002 eBay takeover, he was executive vice president.
After PayPal: ‘The most connected man in Silicon Valley’ co-founded inbox bothering business social network LinkedIn in December 2002, owning a stake now worth an estimated $2.39 billion with its IPO in May 2011. The eldest of the Mafia is also lauded for his clever/lucky angel investing. He’s made upwards of 80 angel investments (including Facebook, Zynga, Flickr, Digg and) and in 2010 joined Greylock Partners, running their $20 million Discovery Fund; designed to seed fundings of worthy start-ups.
Estimated net worth: $3.9 billion
11. Max Levchin
Role in PayPal: A co-founder and the firm’s chief technology officer, well regarded for his contributions to PayPal’s anti-fraud efforts.
After PayPal: Took his $34 million from the PayPal sale and founded Slide. Google picked it up for $182 million in August 2010, with Levchin becoming Google’s Vice President of Engineering on 25 August. A year and a day later, Google closed Slide and Levchin departed. Between Slide’s rise and fall, he helped start Yelp in 2004 (and is the company’s largest shareholder), was appointed to the board of directors of Evernote and and co-founded financial services company Affirm. In recent years, he’s started a company called HVF (standing for, enjoyably, ‘Hard, Valuable, and Fun’), a firm designed to fund projects looking to leverage data and joined Yahoo!’s Board of Directors. He’s keeping himself busy.
Estimated net worth: $300 million
12. Roelof Botha
Role in PayPal: A qualified actuary, South African Botha negotiated PayPal’s sale as its Chief Financial Officer. He had joined the company prior to his graduation from the Stanford School of Business, becoming director of corporate development.
After PayPal: A regular on the Forbes Midas List of top tech investors, Both joined venture capital giant Sequoia Capital in January 2003 as a partner, where’s he’s stayed ever since. His extra curricular business pursuits include sitting on the boards of 13 companies, including Jawbone, Evernote, Tumblr and Xoom. He was also on YouTube’s board before the company was acquired by Google.
Estimated net worth: Unknown
13 Russel Simmons
Role at PayPal: The firm’s Lead Software Architect.
After PayPal: Co-founded Yelp with Jeremy Stoppelman and served as its CTO until he ‘transitioned’ into an advisory role in June 2010 to take some ‘much needed time off to travel’. Fresh from his high end gap year, Simmons launched Learnirvana in 2012, a web tutor program that helps users learn languages.
Estimated net worth: Very difficult to discover. It’s very easy to tell you that near-namesake and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons is worth around $340 million, however.
Not in the picture, but absolutely worth profiling:
Elon Musk (above)
Role at PayPal: PayPal had merged with Musk’s financial services and email payment firm X.com in 1999 and Musk became the new company’s largest shareholder by the time of its sale to eBay. He earned $165 million from the deal.
After PayPal: Strap yourselves in. Musk launched Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) in June 2002, where he serves as the CEO and CTO. In May 2012, their Dragon spacecraft ensured SpaceX became the first commercial vehicle to launch and dock a vehicle to the International Space Station. He assumed leadership of electric car firm Tesla Motors in 2008 and in 2013 unveiled a proposal for a new form of transportation between the Greater Los Angeles area and the Bay Area in San Francisco. His ‘Hyperloop’ is a subsonic air travel machine completely reliant on solar energy.
Estimated net worth: $9.7 billion
The patient, who contracted the disease in Liberia, presented himself at a hospital in Dallas, Texas but was given antibiotics and told to go home. Now, health officials have launched a desperate search for others he could have unwittingly infected.
The first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in America was initially sent home with antibiotics after doctors failed to recognize the symptoms of the deadly disease.
A desperate search has now been launched to find other people in Dallas, Texas, who the man could have infected.
The patient had arrived in Dallas on a flight from Liberia and later presented himself at the hospital because he was feeling ill.
He was told to go home and take the antibiotics, but two days later his condition had deteriorated so badly that an ambulance had to be called.
He is now critically ill and in isolation at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
The ambulance vehicle used to transport him has been quarantined.
Three paramedics who were sent to get him are being kept isolated at their homes and will be monitored for three weeks, the incubation period of Ebola, to see if they develop any symptoms.
Dr Edward Goodman, an epidemiologist at the hospital, said the patient was able to communicate and had been asking for food. He added: "There is no risk to any person in the hospital."
A specialist team from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has arrived in Dallas.
But medical officials said the patient, who has not been named, would not be given the experimental treatment ZMapp because there is none of it left.
It was previously used on Dr Kent Brantly, an American aid worker who was diagnosed in Liberia and then flown back to the US and successfully treated.
The patient in Texas is the first case diagnosed outside Africa in the current outbreak there, which has killed more than 3,000 people.
Officials have not disclosed his nationality but a statement from the city of Dallas said he was visiting relatives in the US.
He arrived in Dallas from Liberia on Sept 20 but showed no symptoms at the time. He began feeling ill four days later and went to the hospital on Sept 26, when he was given the antibiotics.
Two days after that he was rushed in and tested for Ebola. The diagnosis was confirmed at 3.32pm local time on Tuesday.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said: "This can happen to any large city that's truly international today. I am saddened that the randomness of life has landed this in Dallas, but it's a sign of how diverse and international we are as a city." Texas Governor Rick Perry was due in Dallas today to meet with health officials.
Investigators from the CDC will interview the patient to see who he has been in contact with and draw up a map of where and when the contacts took place.
Anyone he came into close contact with will be monitored for 21 days. If they become sick they will be immediately isolated.
Passengers on the flight from Liberia were not at risk because the man was not sick at that point, health officials said.
They have not released the name of the airline he flew with. American Airlines has said it was not one of their flights.
Stanley Gaye, president of the Liberian Community Association of Dallas-Fort Worth, said: "People have been calling, trying to find out if anybody knows the family. We've been telling people to try to stay away from social gatherings."
Britain began air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant by destroying a militant heavy weapon position and one of their armed vehicles, the Ministry of Defence said.
A pair of RAF Tornados flying from Akrotiri in Cyprus attacked the targets while providing air support for Kurdish troops battling the extremists.
The strikes mean that Britain has joined the front line of an American-led coalition in support of Iraqi and Kurdish forces trying to beat back the extremist movement that has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq.
It is believed that the British air strikes were part of the battle for Rabia, which is a key supply route for Isil between its “headquarters” in Syria and its forces in Iraq.
Large amounts of US equipment seized from the Iraqi army during Isil’s push across Iraq in June were taken to Syria across this border. The MoD said the Tornados first dropped one Paveway IV guided bomb on a “heavy weapon position which was engaging Kurdish ground forces” in north-western Iraq. The two Tornados of II Squadron, usually based at RAF Marham, then spotted an armed pick-up truck and struck it with a Brimstone missile.
Both jets returned safely to Akrotiri and Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said their attacks appeared to have been successful. Mr Fallon said that halting the advance of Isil, also known as Isis, would be “a huge task and is going to be a long campaign”.
Tornados have flown nearly 30 reconnaissance missions over Isil territory since mid-August and yesterday’s strikes were on the sixth sortie since MPs voted to authorise RAF ground strikes.
Mr Fallon said: “The RAF have been flying day and night since Parliament gave that authority last Friday and they have been flying important missions, gathering intelligence, deterrents against Isil terrorism, driving them back from the villages, as well as being there in close support when they are tasked to go down and help in particular fighting, and that’s now what they’ve done today.”
Despite dozens of air strikes by US war planes backed by Arab allies including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Isil forces are reportedly within striking distance of Baghdad.
Mr Fallon said: “Isil now occupy a large portion of the territory of Iraq, which it why it is vital now and there’s an international effort to assist the Iraqi government.”
Kurdish commanders told The Daily Telegraph that allied strikes were playing a vital role in the battle for Iraq.
“Surely there’s a big difference as a result of the air strikes,” Brig-Gen Helgurd Hekmat said. “They have given us a crucial advantage.”
Kurdish peshmerga fighters battled to claw back land from jihadists, as US warplanes launched 11 strikes at several locations, destroying armed vehicles and Isil positions. The peshmerga struck at the border town of Rabia, north of jihadist-controlled Mosul, and villages near the town of Daquq south of oil hub Kirkuk, commanders said.
They also attacked the town of Zummar, near the reservoir of Iraq’s largest dam, which has been a key battleground between the Kurds and jihadists.
Coalition strikes are also helping relieve pressure on the besieged Kurdish town of Kobane in Syria, he said.
Scientists believe the mystery over the Man in the Moon face has been solved and is due to a volcanic eruption rather than an asteroid crash as previously thought.
It is a phenomenon which has baffled the scientific world for decades with many believing the 'Man in the Moon' image on the moon's surface was created by a large asteroid.
Now latest research suggests it could have been caused by volcanoes.
The largest dark spot, which resembles a face, could have been caused by lava rising from the interior of the moon rather than from an asteroid collision.
The area called Oceanus Procellarum, which is Latin for Ocean of Storms, stretches 1,800-mile-wide.
Researchers used data from NASA's 2O12 Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission probes to create a high-resolution map of the area and discovered its border is not round but has sharp angles which could not have been created by an asteroid.
They say the angular outline was produced by huge tension cracks as the crust cooled around an upwelling of hot material from deep inside.
Subsequent asteroid collisions in the same area then created smaller craters on top of it.
Professor Maria Zuber, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says as the cracks occurred they formed a "plumbing system" in the moon's exterior through which magma could meander to the surface.
Magma eventually filled the region's smaller craters creating what we see today as dark spots.
Prof Zuber, principal investigator at the GRAIL, said: "A lot of things in science are really complicated but I've always loved to answer simple questions.
"How many people have looked up at the moon and wondered what produced the pattern we see - let me tell you, I've wanted to solve that one!"
To carry out the investigation, which is published in the journal Nature, researchers measured the distance between the probes as they chased each other round the moon.
The map was created using twin probes that orbited the moon from January to December 2012 and was used to determine where the lunar crust thickens and thins.
The mapping revealed Procellarum is composed of edges of 12O degree angles compared to asteroid impacts which tend to produce circular or elliptical craters.
The researchers say some time after the moon formed and cooled a large plume of molten material rose from the lunar interior - around where Procellarum is today.
The steep difference in temperature between the magma plume and the surrounding crust caused the surface to contract over time - creating a pattern of fractures that provided a conduit for molten material to rise to the surface.
The scientists tested their hypothesis and their results matched the results generated by the GRAIL research
Using the distances between the probes the researchers were able to determine the strength of gravity across the surface to create a highly detailed map which they then used to determine where the lunar crust thickens and thins.
But scientists are still puzzled about how such a plume could be created.
Prof Zuber added: "How such a plume arose remains a mystery. It could be due to radioactive decay of heat-producing elements in the deep interior.
"Or conceivably a very early large impact triggered the plume. But in the latter case all evidence for such an impact has been completely erased.
"People who thought all this volcanism was related to a gigantic impact need to go back and think some more about that."
Washington's new rules aimed at stopping US companies from fleeing high corporate tax rates at home by acquiring foreign companies have succeeded in derailing a pharmaceuticals tie-up.
Salix Pharmaceuticals, based in North Carolina, has abandoned its deal with Italy's Cosmo, citing a "changed political environment," in a move that could raise questions for other pending deals.
The American company had announced plans to pay $2.7 billion in stock for Cosmo's Irish subsidiary in July in a deal that would allow Salix to move its tax base abroad in a practice known as inversion.
But Carolyn Logan, boss of Salix, said the Obama administration's recent crackdown on inversion deals, which introduced a string of measures to make the tax benefits less attractive, had raised too many questions.
"The changed political environment has created more uncertainty regarding the potential benefits we expected to achieve," she said.
Cosmo boss Alessandro Della Cha said the termination of the deal would not hurt his company.
"The deal with Salix showed the potential of three products of ours for US," he said. "The development path of the pipeline continued in the meantime, so this termination has no effect on value creation."
Salix will pay Cosmo a breakup fee of $25 million.
America last month took its first concrete steps to curb tax inversion, following months of controversy over a rising tide of what President Barack Obama branded "unpatriotic" deals.
The rules are designed to make “tax inversion” schemes less financially attractive, and they apply to all deals that have not yet been finalised.
They include a ban on so-called hopscotch loans, a practice in which loans made by the foreign entity to the US parent are classified as overseas property and therefore not taxed as a US dividend. This accounting trick can create significant savings in an inverted company, so its prohibition was thought to be one of the most punitive measures from Washington.
Salix's termination of the deal could raise questions for other pending deals like Chicago-based AbbVie's takeover of London-listed Shire. However analysts have pointed out that this deal could yield significant tax savings even without the traditional benefits of inversion.